I’ve been at Lake Washington Sports and Spine since April
2015, and have loved every minute of working here. So it is bittersweet that I
will be leaving in late July to start physical therapy school near Phoenix,
Arizona. (Know of any hotspots? I have zero experience with Phoenix.) I have learned so much working as Dr. Chimes’s
medical assistant that I am at a loss to put it succinctly into words. However, I can at least try and share some tidbits I have learned through
my time at LWSS. The nice thing is that most of these lessons have applications
outside the healthcare field. Without further ado, here are a few things I’ve
learned, in no particular order of importance. Maybe I’ll rank them later in honor of Dr.
In other words, I want to learn as much as
possible regarding physical therapy, the field/specialty I have chosen to
pursue. I will never be satisfied, as there is always something new to learn.
The biggest mistake I can make is to assume that I know all that there is to
know about a given subject. Already I’ve learned about various subspecialties
in physical therapy I had no idea existed prior to working at LWSS. I’ll never be
an expert in all the specialties, but at least I can be aware of the strengths
and weaknesses in order to become a well-rounded, well-informed physical
This is related to the above point, but an
entirely different idea in and of itself. For example, although Dr. Chimes has some
experience in all medical fields, he understands and admits that he has
definite knowledge gaps. It has been years since he learned about cardiology or
hematology, and to further compound the problem, these fields have changed so
much in the intervening years. This leaves him in the position that he’s not
even sure what he doesn’t know. Did past treatments turn out to cause more harm
than good? Are there new diseases that he doesn’t know about? So when patients
ask about issues outside of his area of expertise, he gives a clear disclaimer
that it is not within his expertise and then refers to another provider who
would know better.
What Dr. Chimes is trying to avoid is the
Dunning-Kruger effect, which is summed up fairly well by one of the authors during
an interview with the New York Times: “… the skills you use to produce the
right answer are exactly the same skills you use to evaluate the answer.” In
other words, without knowing the skills yourself, you cannot determine whether
someone is skilled or not. It then follows, how can you possibly come to an
answer without knowing what question to ask? This is a phenomenon I had never
heard of prior to working here, but it certainly has shaped how I will treat
patients in my future career. I will hopefully get my patients to 100% by
focusing on what I know, and referring to, and working with, other healthcare
professionals with patients who are beyond my scope of expertise.
patients will benefit from my expertise as a physical therapist.
And by extension, and possibly more
importantly, when physical therapy is NOT appropriate for a patient. Being able
to see patients from the perspective of a Physiatrist, where accurate diagnosis
is the name of the game, will help me tremendously as a physical therapist. It
is now clearer than ever that I will need to keep an open mind and consider
alternate diagnoses if the initial treatment modalities I utilize on my
patients do not bring any benefit.
differential diagnosis process.
Low back pain is one of the most common
reasons people go to the doctor. However, there are a multitude of causes for
low back pain, and the symptoms often overlap. To compound matters, treatments
for one cause are ineffectual for another, or may even make symptoms worse.
What I’ve learned from my time here is to tease out the unique features of a
patient’s low back pain in order to come to a correct diagnosis. Focusing on
symptoms that apply to several possible diagnoses will not help me determine
the root cause of a patient’s pain.
transparent as possible with my communication.
We have several different iterations of
this idea within the office, ranging from a tidy motto to a detailed flowchart/graph.
It is never beneficial to be vague with my communication style or vocabulary when
talking to another person. Furthermore, not only do I need to be clear with my
communication, I need to confirm that the person I am talking to is ready to
digest what I’m about to say. Having an disengaged audience can, at best, lead
to repetition, and at worst, lead to a complete mishearing of what I have to
The above are just a few of the things I've learned while working at Lake Washington Sports and Spine. The effects of these lessons may not even be felt or become apparent for years down the line, but I know that they will only help me in my future as a physical therapist. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for my time here.
Searching for ways to stay active this weekend? Look no further!Wynnie (weekday office dog, weekend adventurer!) has four fantastic hike recommendations just for you. Click on the links below for hiking guides & trip reports via Washington Trails Association (WTA).